Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Nirvana: The Last Love and Light Story

The Final Story in the Love and Light Series wraps up Wolf, Loti, Heather, and Christian in an enlightened bow just in time for the holidays...

Order your copy for just 99 cents now:

What is it about the holidays that brings out the drama in every family? And Christian's unusual hearth and home is no exception. Christmas was never the vampire's favorite time of year, but when Loti goes into premature labor during a wintry nor-easter he will learn for the first time what family--and maybe even Christmas--is all about.

Book Review: Poet by Juli Valenti

Poet (Redemption Reigns MC, #1)Poet by Juli Valenti
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I finished this book in one day. Any avid reader knows this is the highest compliment. If you are a romance novel fan, read this book. You will not be disappointed.

Now, for the details...

If you're a fan of Sons of Anarchy, you will appreciate this book even more, although this is a romance, so the focus is on the two love interests. Don't expect the all-out cringe-worthy grittiness of the TV show. There's plenty of gritty, just not the same prison-rape shock value (which I consider a GOOD thing for a romance novel).

The characters are well-developed, 3-dimensional and surprisingly relatable (I don't know about you, but being a female MC member is not my cup of tea, and yet I still connected with Poet). I think there is so much more to both Titan and Poet, but that's because the author did such a good job exploring their personalities, flaws, and aspirations that I want to know more.

And the sex? Steamy steamy steamy. Big thumbs up. Double thumbs up. This is not your typical gratutitous sex, either. While I'm a lover of erotica and steamy romance, I also insist on the sex scenes making sense...you know what I'm talking about...the act has to contribute to the story, otherwise it's like 80's porn. Am I right? The pizza guy knocks on the door. The housewife answers the door. *cue the bouncy bass* Yeah, no. Not that at all.

Overall, I give this book 5 peace signs. Excellent.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

De-Stress Daily or Die

This is the 8th post of a 13 part series on my Healthy Life Habits. In case you've missed the previous posts we've already covered:

I’m just going to put it out there: stress is the root of all our woes.

Hate your job? Stress is involved.

Fighting with your spouse? Stress is in there somewhere.

Pants getting tighter? Stress, stress, and more stress.

We think those things ARE our stress, but no. I’m not going to mess around with this topic.
Stress CAUSES all our woes.

Let me get more precise: Not managing our stress is the leading cause of all our problems, be they physical, mental, or…what else is there? That’s the bottom line of our earthly experience: what we think and what we feel. Period.

But, wait, Melissa, you’re wrong! I’m stressed because I got fired from my job and now the bank is foreclosing on my house and I have no prospects for a new job or a place to live and my wife left me and my dog died! *twang* That was not caused BY my stress, that IS my stress.

First, I’m very very sorry you’re in that situation, but, um, no, it’s not why you feel stressed out.

*ducks flying pointy objects*

I submit that it is how you are THINKING about those events in your life that is causing your stress.

Go ahead and glare. I’m not backing down on this one. As horrible as our life situation may be at any one time, we are the masters of our thoughts and feelings. Or not.

Let’s look at a less life altering example, but nonetheless painful.

I’ve been getting harassing emails from Healthcare.gov about being at risk for losing my health insurance financial aid. I have called them for help, revisited my application, and finally contacted a tax professional to help sort this all out. Nothing has changed. I am now getting recorded phone calls warning me to do something…but uh, no information about what I need to do. :-(

During the process I have vacillated from "fuck it" to "holy fucking shit"! I can’t afford $1400/month for health insurance! What the FUCK am I going to do?

*grabs chest and hyperventilates*

Am I having a heart attack? Wait! NO! I can’t have a heart attack because I can’t afford the medical bills because without the stupid effing government stipend I will have to buy even shittier health care coverage than I already have (which doesn’t pay jack squat because I have to set my deductible ridiculously high so I can afford the government aided fucking premium I have now that they’re threatening to take away)!

*throbbing temples, sweaty palms, bone-cracking chest pain* Can’t. Breathe—AAAAACKKKKK!!

*clears throat* 

All that stress? I created it…with my thoughts. Nothing else. Yes, it’s a crappy situation but I don’t have to be stressed out about it. In the end, things will work out. Maybe not the way I want them to, but I’m not going to die of a heart attack on the sidewalk outside the hospital because I couldn’t afford health insurance. I’m not. Neither are you.

We can go on about all different kinds of life situations that are much worse, but in the end it IS how we think about our situation that creates stress.

The events are real.

The stress?  It's in our mind.

And we’re wired that way. Why? Who the HELL thought that shit up?

It’s all about survival. Right? Being chased by a big bad purple-people eater sends a jolt through our mind and body to run Run RUN! The adrenalin, cortisol, and hyped up central nervous system make us run fast and far. And he who runs fastest doesn’t get eaten and lives to pass his super-powered adrenalin reactor on to the next generation.

But if we live as if we’re always being chased, as if everything is a run or die situation, we are going to experience the debilitating affects of chronic stress. Misery, mental health issues, physical health issues, weight gain, buddha belly...

AND if we don’t practice mindful stress-management, then we are going to resort to knee-jerk ways of managing it.

Like…overeating comfort foods. Potato chips, ice cream, pizza, Ho Hos, bacon bombs, the list is unique for each of us.

Like…over indulging in alcohol or other mind-altering substances. 

Or even better, combining the above.

There are many self-destruct ways to manage stress—fighting with your wife, screaming at your kids, manipulating your friends into proving they love you, eating disorders—but I think we get the picture.

If we don’t consciously learn to manage stress and practice stress management daily, then we fall back on unhealthy ways to tweak our brain chemistry and autonomic central nervous system. 

Unmanaged stress kills and along the way makes us fucking miserable.

Sooooo, that was painful and ugly. 

On to the good stuff...

Stress can and must be managed. How, you ask? You don’t have to take yoga classes or meditate at sunrise, although I highly recommend both. You can start wherever you are. Say, for instance, going for a short walk. 

Wait, Melissa, isn’t that what you said we should do way back in Move Your Body?

Why, yes, yes it is. Isn’t that convenient? Moving your body IS a way to manage your stress. See, moving about helps process those stress hormones so your body can actually relax and go about the necessary repairs and bodily processes that can only happen when we are in a relaxed state.

Want a focused, more precise way to manage cortisol and adrenalin? Exercise on purpose. (now you're just devious, Melissa.) A combination of cardio, strength, and flexibility training is the best way to manage stress. Too much cardio and you might actually produce more stress hormones. Don’t challenge your muscles to go beyond their current capacity (even just a wee bit) and they will atrophy, causing the body to be less capable of burning through stress.

Are you forgoing the focused stretching? A lot of gym athletes scoff at stretching and a lot of them suffer with lots of pulls, strains, and overuse injuries.

Without the stretching you’re more likely to hold stress in the muscles (I’m not kidding read this article, Why Does Stretching Relieve Stress?) and that defeats the whole purpose of getting out there and moving around. Plus, gentle stretching keeps you from getting injured, thus benched, and unable to exercise to manage your stress. Doubt me? What happens when you’re playing tennis and have to suddenly change directions (duh. tennis.) and you’re tight? Uh huh. Ouch. And no more tennis for you at some point, even if you push through the pain. Especially when you push through the pain.

Another stress management technique? Take short breaks through out your day, go outside, soak up some sunlight, preferably the short blue light waves that make that mid day sky so damn…uh, blue. These are harder to come by in the fall and winter months so maybe invest in blue light therapy. I have a desktop version because it’s super convenient to turn it on for 20 minutes while I’m writing. Easy. And affective. 

It’s impossible to cover all the possible stress management strategies in one little blog post, so do yourself a favor and google the topic. You will find tons and tons of ideas about how to manage your stress. Start with one that you like the sound of and practice it daily for one month.

Don’t like that one? Try something else, but don’t ba-humbug stress management because you don’t like one or two or twenty techniques. There is a happy place for everyone, but you have to want it and be willing to do the research and the work.

The bottom line is we need to learn to manage our minds, our thought processes that fuel our biochemical stress reactions. Will stress management stop you from being stressed ever again? 

Ahahahahahahhaha. *wipes away tears*

No. That’s impossible. Remember, we are wired to feel it, but we can learn to manage it and also how to come down from a flight-or-flight episode. 

My favorite stress management technique is practicing observing my thoughts and feelings without getting tangled up in them or fueling either. It’s a meditative thing, but all you have to do is sit in silence and observe your thoughts and feelings. When fear arises, sit with it, but don’t feed it. When aggravating thoughts manifest, don’t try to stop them. Let them float  up out of your head like helium filled balloons and watch them disappear.

Ah. That’s better. 

Is it ever perfect? Nah. Striving for perfection is guaranteed to stress you out.

Just practice every day and slowly you will start to be less stress-reactive. And when you are stress-reactive? You'll be able to ride it out instead of letting it escalate into a meltdown or heart attack.

Pick one thing to do every day. That's it. Let me know how its working for you.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

This Week's Music Experience: The Magic of Africa and Breakin' A Sweat

****UPDATE 11/15/15 10:07 AM EST****

I wrote this post a few days before the attacks on Paris and debated on whether to post it today, as planned. I decided to go ahead because some music experiences are dark, but life goes on.

I dedicate this week's Music Experience to all the music lovers who attended the Eagles of Death Metal show at the Bataclan in Paris last Friday evening, November 13, 2015. 

May your hearts find peace.


Music is not just an interest of mine; in the words of The Doors, music is my special friend. I have many special friends to hang out with, too. Take a look at my Spotify playlists.

Music and the artists who create it often lead me down rabbit holes reading articles, watching videos, and chatting about what I found with friends. These music experiences are more than listening to tunes; they're consciousness raising.

I realized that a lot of my music experiences might actually be interesting to other peaceful warriors. So here's this week's Music Experience, as experienced by this truth seeker:

Do you believe in magic? Ever had a dream about a loved one that's passed on? Ever have a strange experience that leaves you wondering what the hell kind of magic is this Universe made of, anyway?

I do. I have. And oh hell yeah.

It's why I write fantasy, sci-fi, and paranormal.

Okay, so this actually happened last year but I just had to tell the story. I was listening to Skrillex live at Complex House 2014 in the background while I wrote. The music was thumping and then I hear the strains of Africa by Toto. "Ya all know Toto, right? Come on," Skrillex says.

My head snapped up, my fingers froze on the keyboard, and my heart about leapt out of my chest. I rewound the video and watched that last bit with the hair on the back of my neck standing on end.

I know this needs some explaining...

When I was a three, my folks divorced.  For various reasons I didn't see a lot of my dad. Eventually, when I was 11 years old, he started picking me up for weekend visits on a regular basis, but tragically he died only one year later. Life-altering stuff. But one day during that all-too-brief year, we were hanging out while he was building a breakfast bar and Toto by Africa came on the radio.

He stopped what he was doing to turn it up. With animated gestures, he told me this sound--the electronic sound created with a GS1 / GS2 (1980), 1st FM synth of Yamaha and a Yamaha CS-80 --was going to be big one day. "This is the music of the future and it'll revolutionize how we experience music."

Keep in mind that those stage pianos were brand spanking new in 1980 AND that Africa was a HUGE hit in 1982 AND still becomes a favorite of the new generations.

Fast forward to Skrillex playing Toto's Africa at the end of his set. I know he was doing that at his shows for a brief period. Don't know if he's doing it anymore, but holy hell! You can understand why I started watching every Skrillex video I could find, him being the Electronic Dance Music genius. He literally develops most of his music on a laptop with headphones. Amazing.

When I came across the making of Breakin' A Sweat, which is coincidentally the song that introduced me to Skrillex, a.k.a. Sonny Moore, in the first place, I wept with joy.

You know that sample of Jim Morrison talking that Skrillex uses in Breakin' A Sweat? Yeah, I bet my dad heard that quote at some point, too. I have no doubt.

*big deep breath*

 Anyway, I was already an avid Skrillex fan, but this experience took it to another level. I mean, we're all connected, right? One big web of life and who knows...love abounds.

My dad and Jim Morrison are gone, but the music lives on and so do I.  And this was a really special music experience for me, too, Sonny Moore. Full circle indeed.

Thanks to Skrillex, the Doors, Jim Morrison, and the members of Toto.  Because of you my heart is full and my faith in magic reaffirmed every time I hear these songs. Enjoy the vids! :-)

Peace out.

The first three videos are restricted for sharing so I'm linking instead of embedding. Sorry for the inconvenience.

All rights reserved to respective owners. See copyright notices in respective vids.

Africa by Toto

Regeneration Music Project: Skrillex and the Doors - Making of 'Breakin' a Sweat' 

Breakin a Sweat Official Music Video 

 What kind of music experiences have you had? Would you like to share? If so please consider submitting your music experience here for possible publication on my blog OR if you just can't wait, share in the comments below.

You will retain all rights if your story is accepted. Not all submissions will be published, but I'll try to post as many as I can.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

This Week's Music Experience: What's that Spell?

Music is not just an interest of mine, it's my drug of choice. I have playlists galore for just about everything I do: road trips, writing fight scenes, and taking a shower. Hell, I even have one for driving in the city when you spend an inordinate amount of time waiting for the light to change.

And I don't just listen to the music, either, I often end up bounding down some rabbit hole reading articles, watching videos, and chatting about what I found with friends. It turns into an experience as I absorb something new, grasp some nuance, feel something, or very frequently become inspired and create something of my own in response.

I realized that a lot of my music experiences might actually be interesting to other music worshippers. So here's this week's Music Experience, as experienced by me:

So, as usual, I was looking for songs that resonated with a short story I was writing and wouldn't you know it? Dillon Francis popped up in my EDM feed with What's that Spell? (ft T.J.R.) I'm loving what this guy is producing, and it didn't hurt a bit when Get Low ended up on the Fast and Furious 7 soundtrack. Anything Vin Diesel related...

But then I was sitting on the deck with the Hubs forcing him to listen to my latest music find on youtube, What's that Spell? and the Hubs was like, "Oh yeah. Country Joe and the Fish." Uh. What? No. That's Dillon Francis. See? *points to album art*

Here I must point out that the Hubs is 14 years older than me.

He was like, "Oh come on. You know what I'm talking about." So he pulled up the Youtube video of Country Joe and the Fish at the 1969 Woodstock. And Oooooooooooh yeeeeeeaahhhhhh! NOW I remember. Well, I remember hearing it before. I'm not old enough to have gone to Woodstock, but my parents are and I grew up breast-fed on the Beatles, while every Saturday night the Golden Oldies played as we drove wherever.

So in case you're wondering what the HELL Dillon Francis and Country Joe and the Fish have in common, here are the two videos. And...you're welcome. :-)

All rights reserved to the respective owners. See copyright notices in respective vids.

 What kind of music experiences have you had? Would you like to share? If so please consider submitting your music experience here for possible publication on my blog OR if you just can't wait, share in the comments below.

You will retain all rights if your story is accepted. Not all submissions will be published, but I'll try to post as many as I can.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Double-down on the Vagus Nerve and Win the Anti-Anxiety Lottery

Who here suffers from anxiety, panic attacks, and/or depression? What do you know about the
vagus nerve? I was reminded the other night at a presentation about Trauma Informed Communities, that most people have no clue what the vagus nerve is or what it's role is in our body.

The vagus nerve is basically the parasympathetic nervous system I'm always talking about in yoga class. If you Google it, anatomy charts will point to a nerve at the base of your skull, but it "wanders" from down both sides of your neck to the front of the body, and wraps around and under the stomach from both the front and the back.

I practice yoga to stay sane; if you know me personally you have heard or read those words from me. And this is why: yoga can stimulate the vagus nerve; that's where the calm, floaty feeling comes from. The parasympathetic nervous system is your "brake"; it calms you down and brings you into the restful state required to digest food, procreate, and relax.

That peaceful, centered feeling at the end when you roll up your mat was brought to you by your yoga practice stimulating the vagus nerve. A little bit of yoga every day is a great maintenance program for those suffering from anxiety, panic attacks, and depression.

It can be an emergency med for an anxiety attack, as well, but yoga works much better if you also have a maintenance schedule.

You do NOT have to bend yourself into a Gumby yogi to reap the benefits. Not at all.

You do NOT have to take an hour-long class with people who breathe through their eyeballs and "feel" their liver.

All you have to do is breathe and try a few simple, relaxing yoga poses to counter all that daily stress that builds up on top of your life experiences that have programmed you for anxiety, panic, and depression.

You can't change the past, but you can learn to manage your anxiety, panic disorder, and/or depression in the present. But you have to put your money down on the yoga table in two ways:

1. Practice for a few minutes each day to train your body to default to the parasympathetic nervous system. Practicing yoga teaches your body how to get back to a state of rest more quickly.

2. Use what you learn in yoga practice (breathing techniques, poses, visualization) to calm yourself when you feel the earliest signs of an anxiety, panic, or depressive episode coming on.

People have told me "Oh, I tried yoga but it didn't help." And I know they went to a class or bought a DVD and maybe practiced a handful of times. That doesn't really help, no. You will get immediate benefits, but you won't tap into the wealth of health yoga has to offer that way.

The real way to strike it rich is to do the daily work. There are no short cuts on this, my friends. There are no quick fixes. Well, I did read that an experimental vagus nerve stimulator is being tested. If having an implant sounds cool. Which it kind of does, I must admit.

But in the meantime, give this feel good yoga practice a try. Its simple. Almost anyone can do it.

And if that's too hard, do some diaphragmatic breathing. Here's a good tutorial on how to breath using the diaphragm. She's a little didactic, but it's the best explanation/demonstration of how to make sure you're activating the diaphragm.

Because if you're doing it wrong, you can actually be restricting the vagus nerve. i.e. Are you tightening your neck and lifting your shoulders when you take a deep breath? Guess what? That pinches the vagus nerve, which is the opposite of what we want to do.

I wrestle with my anxiety and depression tendencies every day, but my yoga practice has increased my odds of winning and staying on top. So give it a go and let us know how it's working. If it doesn't seem to be doing any good, please post a comment and I'd be extremely happy to help.

Love and light to each and every one of you!

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Winter Wonderland of Books: Christmas Giveaway


Congratulations to all the winners!
See list of winners below.

Over 50 Authors
giving away dozens of free books,
Christmas presents,
a $200 PayPal Grand Prize!

Make sure to fill out all entries to increase your chances of winning!

I'm giving away an ebook copy of the Little Flame Box Set, Vol. 1-5 to 3 lucky winners.

Enter the Giveaway Now!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Eat Real Food, Most of the Time

This is the 7th post of a 13 part series on my Healthy Life Habits. In case you've missed the previous posts we've already covered:

What “should" you eat to be healthy? Ah. What a can of worms I just opened.
Ew.  Worms. *gags*
I don’t eat worms, just for the record. Not even gummy worms. I’ve heard the real ones are high in protein. Maybe in an apocalyptic or lost-in-the-woods situation where the alternative is to starve…but I digress.
Where was I? Eating healthy. Eat Real Food.
When asked what rules I follow for healthy eating, I always think about the movie Robocop. Remember the original? Robocop was given four Prime Directives:
1.  Serve the public trust. 

2.  Protect the innocent. 

3.  Uphold the law. 

4.  Classified. 

Ah, the Classified Prime Directive. Remember what it was? He was programmed to be unaware of it unless it became relevant. If you remember, post it in the comments.
Like Robocop, I have four very simple Prime Directives for eating:
1.  Eat real food. 

2.  Mostly vegetables. 

3.  In appropriate amounts. 

4.  Classified. 

But unlike Robocop my Classified Prime Directive is always relevant and must be remembered at all times. What is it? Keep reading…
What is “real” food, you ask? I’m going to keep this as simple as I can. Real food is as close to the original food as you can get. Fresh or frozen meat, vegetables, herbs, dairy, non-hydrogenated natural fats, whole grains, and fruit. If it has an ingredient list, it’s probably not “real” food.

What do I mean by “mostly vegetables”? If you need a concise answer, my rule of thumb is veggies should cover half your plate, which means you can double or even triple the veggies at any meal. I serve a fresh salad, along with the main vegetable dish.

Appropriate amounts? That depends on what you’re eating, but here are some generally accepted portion sizes for different types of food, but keep in mind you wouldn’t eat all of this at one meal. Maybe at Thanksgiving, but you’d be hurting. Strive for a balanced combination on your plate:

4-6 oz. of lean protein
1/2 cup cooked veggies
1 cup raw vegies
1/2 cup fresh fruit
1/2 cup cooked rice/potatoes
1 cup whole wheat pasta
1 tsp. olive/coconut/canola oil/butter
Notice I haven’t said thing one about what NOT to eat. There’s more to the story.
Even the simple question about what constitutes real food has become this complicated and confusing argument that makes most red-blooded Americans want to throw up our hands and say “screw it!”
Do a Google search on “healthy eating” and you’ll get a stew of mixed up directives that make you want to gouge out your eyes and go eat cheesecake.
Did you watch Robocop 2? If you did, then you know that his original Prime Directives were usurped by a committee-sanctioned litany of directives that made him practically incapable of action. Sound familiar?
Do you want to scream, “What the heck IS the right way to eat ??” as you scroll through every piece of contradicting advice and healthy eating platitudes ad naseaum on the Internet?
Whatever your current reason (to lose weight, to get off blood-pressure meds, to be able to play with your kids) the bottom line is:
You want to enjoy your life. You want to feel better.

Am I right?
Keeping this in mind, here again are my 4 Prime Directives, but I’ve de-classified the fourth:
1. Eat real food.
2. Mostly vegetables.
3. In appropriate amounts.
4. All eating rules can be broken in a mindful manner.
 While it’s very important to start incorporating real food, mostly vegetables, in appropriate amounts, it’s also very important to ease these healthy eating habits into your life one step at a time. 

NOWHERE in my heathy eating rules is there a no or a don’t. Why? Because, my dear friends, I know human nature. Tell me I can’t have or do something and, um, yeah. Especially when it comes to food, all I want is whatever you said I can’t have. Childish, I know, but heh heh. What can I say? That’s me. Human. 

And allowing for human nature, I strive to follow rules one through three 85% of the time. The other 15%? That’s why Prime Directive 4 was invented: All eating rules can be broken in a mindful manner.
For example, on my 18th wedding anniversary we had Bavarian food at my favorite restaurant. Sooooo, I was extra good about the first three Prime Directives all week, knowing full well that I would have a seriously delicious opportunity to mindfully break the rules at the Bavarian Chef.

I know this one is the toughest healthy life habit to get a handle on, but if you commit to taking one tiny step at a time you can master your food. And your life.


Friday, October 16, 2015

Does this Book Make Me Look Fat?

Because I'm always waxing editorial style, I'm excited to share my latest editorializing in Literary
Addicts Magazine this month: Does this Book Make Me Look Fat?

Check out this month's issue here: Literary Addicts Magazine October 2015

As an avid romance reader since the tender age of 13 and the mother of a thirteen-year-old, I'm curious about body image in romance and books in general. Does it have an impact on young women? Do we grow up thinking that in order to find the love of our lives, we have to be physically "perfect"? I explore this further in the article.

And don't forget to take part in the survey at the end of the article. We'll be publishing the results next month.

Thank you to the staff at Literary Addicts for including me in the October 2015 edition.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Euphoria Teaser: I Would Die For You

Want a little taste of Euphoria?

Excerpt from Euphoria, book #7 in the Little Flame Series:

The stage curtain undulated between us and the murmuring roar. Yet, I could still hear the damn crickets. What was up with that?
“What is this thing?” I ran a finger over the blue tarp covering the big secret Max, Dee, and Brandon had been working on for the show.
“Fia, quit trying to change the subject,” Max said, gripping my elbow. His breath was warm against my cheek, and I stared down at my brown rawhide boots.
“I’m not,” I mumbled, but hey, who did I think I was kidding?
“Fiamette,” Max whispered in my ear. “Answer my question.”
I shivered, turned on and pissed off at the same time.  I stubbed the toe of my boot against my hoop a few times, then looked up as Max stepped back. “Wouldn’t you? Do anything for someone you loved?”
Max ran his fingers through his long black hair, flipping it over his shoulder, revealing the shaved half of his head. “Yeah, I guess I would.”
The crowd’s noise level rose just before Warren’s voice buzzed in my ear. “Two minutes to show time, ladies.”
“So, that’s what I did.”
“You basically died.”
I nodded, slinging the hoops over my shoulder. “Yeah. Basically.”
“And you didn’t know Loti would bring you back, did you?”
I shook my head, watching him watching me. “No.” I pointed toward the metal hoop suspended two feet above the stage. Two stagehands waved frantically. “I have to get into position.”
Max grabbed my hand before I’d taken two steps, spun me around, and planted one of those toe-curling Max kisses on me I’d become addicted to. I gasped for breath when he suddenly jerked his lips from mine, holding my head firmly with both hands. His eyes glowed electric blue. “Don’t ever do that again.”
I stared for a second, then shook my head. “I can’t make that kind of promise.” People screamed as laser lights swung around the open festival grounds. A billion stars twinkled down on the excitement. “And don’t tell me you wouldn’t do the same for Warren or Tati or—”
“Or you,” Max said.
Breaking free of Max’s grasp, I ran toward the impatient stagehands who boosted me up into the hoop swing. I settled my prop hoops around my waist, balancing them on my thighs as the swing rose steadily above the stage. My heart thudded against my ribs, Max’s whispered words drifting inside my head. Shouts and whistles echoed around me as I sat in the dark, waiting for the curtain to literally drop . . . and whatever was under the blue tarp to be revealed.
“Ten! Nine! Eight!” The throng chanted in unison. Max was already inside the secret stage prop, turning up the music slowly, gradually. By that time, I was thirty feet in the air, poised to swing out over the sea of humanity to a dance platform in the middle of the audience.
Enough people had made sacrifices for me over the long, long years. There was no way in hell I was going to let Max join their ill-fated club. The curtain billowed to the stage as pyrotechnics exploded behind the gigantic, hidden surprise. I reached into my leather bra top for the red lighter. I flicked it as Max took control of the music, bringing it up, up, up. I lit the detachable torch, then held it high in the air as I swung out over the crowd.
“I can’t hear you!” Max screamed, and the blue tarp slid off his DJ stand. Red and blue and white lights flashed in stripes, outlining a massive, space-age looking Roman chariot flanked by two horses made of what looked like flames. How the hell did they do that?

Euphoria, book #7 in the Little Flame Series is available for download at these ebook retailers: